I Will Have a Most Glorious Time Riding My Bicycle in Approved Areas Under Close Supervision in Wonderful North Korea

02.11.2013 | 11:17 am

I have ridden a bike in the French Alps. I have ridden a bike in rural Africa. I have even ridden a bike in New York (terrifying) and Alamosa, Colorado (less terrifying).

These are all, however, pale substitutes for where — in my heart of hearts — I really truly want to ride my bike:

North Korea.

I know, I know. You’re saying to me, “Fatty, get your head out of the clouds. Everyone wants to ride their bike in North Korea.”

“You don’t understand,” I reply to you, “I don’t just want to ride a bike with a Korean bicycle tour, where I can pay about the amount of money I would for a house down payment to be carefully escorted around on selected, pre-approved roads, taking in statue after statue after statue of a tyrant, on a clunky hybrid bike.”

“Wow,” you no doubt say to me now, “That does indeed sound like the adventure of a lifetime. May I join you on this trip?”

“Alas,” I conclude in our imaginary-yet-very-realistic conversation, “I am unaware of any such cycling tour.”

Or at least I wasn’t aware of any such cycling tour . . . until I got the most awesome promotional email ever in the history of promotional email!

Invitation to Indescribable Adventure

The email begins with the following video, which I encourage you to watch, right now, with your computer’s volume set to eleven:

I don’t know about you, but my reaction to this video was as visceral as it was cerebral, and I found myself watching it over and over. Just in case you don’t have time to watch it as much as I have, however, allow me to show you some highlights:

Why is there nobody but tourists on the road?

Standing around after unloading bikes is a top feature of this tour.

Why is that guy in the background pushing his bike?

Don’t worry, you’ll have ample time to stand around, talking with other tourists.

Why do there continue to be nobody but tourists on the road?

Yay! They’re unloading bikes!

Why would this barren hill be included in a promotional video? (And also, why is there nobody but one lone tourist on the road?)

A rare moment on the tour, featuring both nobody on the road but tourists, and standing around.

Do I even need to say anything here?

Seriously, how could one not want to go on such an adventure? 

The North Korean Equivalent of a Chorus of Angels

Of course, the images are only part of the allure of this video. The soundtrack is what really moves it from the “indescribably elegant” category squarely into “sublime.”

What’s the story behind this — your new favorite — song? Well, the email I received explains:

This song is a massive hit in the DPRK, everyone in North Korea knows the words and it’s even been featured in the mass games. Like all great DPRK pop culture there is a deeper ideological message and your ears ain’t deceiving you, they are indeed singing “CNC” – which as we all know stands for “Computer Numerical Control” – go light industry! In case that raised more questions than it answered, you can read more here.

So, in answer to your question: it’s a super-popular song that sounds like it was recorded in the Fifties, about a technology that’s been around since the Forties.

Check out the lyrics. 

NewImageIf you set your heart on anything
We follow the program making the Songun era machine technology’s pride; our style CNC technology


CNC – Juche industry’s power!
CNC – an example of self-strength and reliance!
Following the General’s leading path
Breakthrough the cutting edge

Arirang! Arirang! The people’s pride is high
Let’s build a science-technology great power
Happiness rolls over us like a wave

Admit it: after reading and hearing this song, you want to sing along. Like these people did, in this completely spontaneous and not-state-arranged singalong that a tourist just happened to have captured:

It’s also possible to see and hear this song at the Mass Games, which you will have the opportunity to see pretty much every night you are in North Korea:

Or, frankly, you’ll hear it everywhere and anywhere you go. Which is awesome, because it has been decided by our great leader that you will never tire of this song.

Glorious Rides and Activities

When we (for at this point my confidence is incredibly high that you will wish to go on this selfsame tour) go to North Korea for the cycling tour, we will never, ever run out of amazing things to do and see. Here is a small selection from the official itinerary of what we shall do:

  • Have a pre-tour briefing!
  • Go through immigration and customs and be assigned guards guides!
  • Visit the Mansudae Grand Monument and lay down flowers at the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il!
  • Visit a subway!
  • See the Arch of Triump, where Kim Il Sung gave a speech to the Korean people after the surrender of the Japanese!
  • Visit the Victorieous Fatherland Liberation War Museum, where we can see the USS Pueblo, which was totally not unarmed and in international waters when captured.
  • Visit Kim Il Sung Square!
  • Visit the Party Foundation Monument!
  • Visit Janam Hill, where there’s a statue of Kim Il Sung!
  • Visit Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun, where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state!
  • Visit the Youth Hero Highway — where, five days into the tour, we will ride our bikes for the first time. For a flat 25Km on a deserted highway!
  • Visit the West Sea Barrage, an 8Km dam, which was personally overseen by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il!
  • Probably see a lot more statues and amazing things all about Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il! But I haven’t quite been able to make myself finish reading the itinerary because the trip sounds far too awesome!

And the great thing about this cycling tour is, there won’t be too much cycling! From the itinerary:

If you are a keen cyclist who  is looking to cycle long distances every day and will not  be happy otherwise, then this tour is not for you. If you are flexible and happy to cycle whatever distance is possible and at whatever pace is possible then we welcome you with open arms!


In fact, the only thing I’m disappointed in with this incredible tour is that I can’t take more of them! Because other amazing tours are available, including:

  • NewImageTax Abolition Day Tour: Stay in the unique and rarely visited Ryanggang (Two Rivers) Hotel while in Pyongyang. This is one of the only ways to spend St. Patrick’s day in a country with not one Irish Pub – bring your own Guinness for that night!
  • May Day Long Tour: “Don’t believe it’s possible to tango with a tipsy North Korean grandmother in a busy park? We’ll prove it to you on this trip!”
  • Kim Il Sung 101st Birthday Tour 1. Or perhaps the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 2. Or maybe the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 3. Or even the Kim Il sung 101st Birthday Tour 4. 
They all sound so good! Maybe next year, and the year after that. And so forth.

Meanwhile, though, I’m stoked to head out and ride my bike and stand around with tourists in North Korea, on the bikes they will provide us (Hunter 2.0s or North-Korean-made mountain bikes):


This cycling tour is going to be awesome.


  1. Comment by Mike C | 02.11.2013 | 11:30 am

    Just Wow.

  2. Comment by Brian in VA | 02.11.2013 | 11:41 am

    I am already so jealous of you for having taken all those “other” cycling tours. And now? If you go on this, do you really think we’re going to keep reading your blog? We have to draw the line somewhere. I don’t think we can go on worshiping your Phatness, Fatty, ya know?

    But if you go, I so want to see the pictures they give you when they hand you back your camera at the end of the tour.

  3. Comment by Rollo | 02.11.2013 | 11:45 am

    Two things: I can hear the song echoing in my head as I stand at the conclusion of the 1 mile stretch of approved road that they let us ride. I’m standing at the conclusion because it took me no time at all to complete the 1-mile stretch but I am looking at the herd of non-cyclists struggling to complete the ride. I’m hearing the song screaming at me “you are an idiot” while the rest of the tour group is giving themselves a coronary.

    Second, based on the description “If you are flexible and happy to cycle whatever distance is possible and at whatever pace is possible then we welcome you with open arms!” I think they are really saying “If you mostly like to ride a bus, then this is the trip for you!”

  4. Comment by becomingblue | 02.11.2013 | 11:54 am

    There was no mention of food. Do we pack our own or are meals provided?

  5. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 02.11.2013 | 11:55 am

    Please tell me you made this up. Please! PLEASE!

    Maybe after that we could go bike the Iranian boarder. Yeah that would be a great follow up. Kind of like Reveal the Path, but with more excitement.

  6. Comment by Clancy | 02.11.2013 | 12:14 pm

    What Mike C said. plus one more.. Wow.

  7. Comment by Dave T | 02.11.2013 | 12:18 pm

    Wow they only list 3 rules on the web site for your visit but they all seem to involve not doing anything fun unless your guild/guard approves. You might want to check out Kim Jong’s twitter site for the very latest happenings in North Korea. I’m thinking you may want to pass on this one. https://twitter.com/KimJongNumberUn

  8. Comment by Dom Lavin | 02.11.2013 | 12:25 pm

    Upside : you will NOT get hit by a motor vehicle while on this Tour. Downside : everything else.

    Oh and Fatty, I wold check my computer for a virus after receiving something like this…

  9. Comment by Liz M. | 02.11.2013 | 12:36 pm

    Gee Fatty, if the stars align, this might be the year that I can finally make my first ever trip to Utah. I kind of had my heart set on that. But that was before I knew North Korea was an option, and you make it sound so compelling. This is going to be a tough one. Any advice?

    I dunno. Read this and decide for yourself which place is more regressive. – FC

  10. Pingback by Nächster Stop….Pjöngyang | there is no "I" in cyclyng | 02.11.2013 | 12:44 pm

    [...] Fat Cyclist machte heute darauf aufmerksam, dass es für den kultivierten Radtouristen der schon alles erlebt hat und überall war nun doch noch eine Chance besteht ein ganz ungewöhnliches Abenteuer zu erleben: Radtourismus in Nordkorea. [...]

  11. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.11.2013 | 12:51 pm

    Khamsa hamnida!

  12. Comment by Joe Jacobs | 02.11.2013 | 12:53 pm

    You forgot the most exciting part…for a small fee (or use of a camera) you get whisked away at sometime during the tour for a date with the North Korean Central Committee where you will participate in a play performed on the worldwide stage with the lead role as a capitalist spy. After several months of North Korea’s award winning weight loss camp you will be returned home by a member of the Clinton family….maybe.

  13. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.11.2013 | 12:59 pm

    Well, ANY cycling tour where you can wear Crocks or flip-flops is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY!

    Alas….if I only had the $27,943…

  14. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.11.2013 | 1:01 pm

    And I kind’a thought the music for the video was pretty catchy…maybe from a DPRK version of “Married with Children”…

  15. Comment by babble on | 02.11.2013 | 1:02 pm

    All day long “How do you solve a problem like Maria” has been endlessly cycling through my head, thanks to Snobbie doodle doo mentioning “Maria” Cipollini’s doping habits, but now you’ve come along and solved that little problem.


    I think.

  16. Comment by bikemike | 02.11.2013 | 1:40 pm

    Pffft, i’m doing the Mt. Everest Single Speed Time Trial. I hear it’s a killer.

  17. Comment by centurion | 02.11.2013 | 2:54 pm

    Is it April 1st already?!? My how time flies.

  18. Comment by GenghisKhan | 02.11.2013 | 3:35 pm

    Liz M., I just read the Hurricane Hair Story–go to North Korea, I say. Besides, you have to pronounce “Hurricane” something like “her uh kuhn”.

    HUR’kun. – FC

  19. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 02.11.2013 | 3:45 pm

    Why are you laughing at cycling in Crocs? I ride all my grand tours in Crocs, even those over 5km. Not only are they cool and comfortable, they are a lot easier to use when pushing my bike up those 3%+ grades. So next time I ride by with my Crocs as you are clankily pushing your bike uphill in those fancy cycling shoes not at all practical for walking, I’ll tip my bell helmet tauntingly in your direction.

  20. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 02.11.2013 | 4:04 pm

    In the tour itinerary: “…visitors are required to follow the local custom and bow in front of the statues after laying down a bouquet of flowers”

    Not only will you have a closely guided/guarded tour, but you have the opportunity (obligation?) to pay homage to North Korea’s glorious leaders as well. What an opportunity.

    Good thing I read this part of the itinerary. I might have caused an international incident.

    Wow. Just. Wow. Like, Wow.

  21. Comment by UpNorth | 02.11.2013 | 4:22 pm

    You mean “HUR’kun” like gherkin?

    All in all an entertaining read, both the bike/adulation tour as well as the hair story.

    Yes, that’s a perfect rhyme. I’m not even a little bit kidding. – FC

  22. Comment by Guest | 02.11.2013 | 5:21 pm

    Utah has an ‘acceptable color spectrum’ for hair? Is this why you shaved all of yours off?

    Yes. “Greying” is outside the acceptable parameters for hair color. – FC

  23. Comment by ZooterToot | 02.11.2013 | 5:45 pm

    The accommodations sound fantastic “sporadic hot water and frequent power cuts but a great experience as you are living literally next door to the local inhabitants”

  24. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.11.2013 | 6:30 pm

    This is stirring. Not sayin’ what it is stirring.

  25. Comment by Leroy | 02.11.2013 | 7:36 pm

    My dog refuses to discuss this adventure of a life time. He’s concerned about a dish they eat over there called boshintang.

    I’m going to go on record as saying that I look forward, every day, to hearing what your dog has to say. On both this blog and BSNYC’s. Seriously, consistently good stuff. – FC

  26. Comment by RedNBlondies | 02.11.2013 | 8:44 pm

    Wow, this post is so timely. I am in the military and just came on orders sending me to South Korea this summer. I was worried about the lack of a cycling culture and how I would stay in shape. Now, I know I just have to put in leave, travel a few miles north and partake in an adventure of a lifetime!

  27. Comment by Mark | 02.11.2013 | 9:02 pm

    What was special about Alamosa, CO? Unless it was in the winter at -35 degrees! I grew up there. At least you don’t need “guides” or have to bow to statues. What fun, send postcards!

    I grew up in Alamosa, too (age 5 – 13). That’s why I put it in there. And I remember those winters, too. Between Rovaniemi, Finland (which is on the edge of the Arctic Circle) and Alamosa, CO, I remember Alamosa as feeling colder. – FC

  28. Comment by Tim | 02.11.2013 | 9:03 pm

    I assumed this was a breaking news story from the Fat Cyclist Fake News Service but the byline was missing. I then realized it was….real. What?!?

  29. Comment by BamaJim | 02.11.2013 | 9:47 pm

    I really like the caption about the opportunity to cycle “the least visited country in the world”. I imagine tourism officials in Yemen are preparing an aggressive ad campaign in response.

    The focus on CNC just makes my head ache. I thought you had to be making that part up.

  30. Comment by Wife#1 | 02.11.2013 | 9:57 pm

    Bwahahaha!! Who knew there existed a cycling tour anywhere in the world that would be too easy even for me?

    Then again, I suppose all the bowing and laying of flowers would give my core a serious workout.

    This is just too funny. BTW – I am digging today’s pingback in German about cycling in North Korea. You are so global Fatty! The google translation says it all. ;-)

    “Fat Cyclist today made aware that it cultivated for cyclists has seen everything and everywhere was now but still there is a chance to experience a very unusual adventure: cycling tourism in North Korea. [...]“

  31. Comment by L'Hippo | 02.11.2013 | 10:18 pm

    Wow…..where to start? You can’t make up something that good. A few quick hits that popped in my head.

    1. Did that one lady really need the spandex? Does she rock a skinsuit when she takes her Bakfiets to the grocery?
    2. If South Korea has “Gangham Style” does North Korean have “Gulag Style”?
    3. You have to be pretty far down the Bucket List before you get to “North Korean Bike Tour”
    4. A song about CNC. So what’s the encore “Statistical Process Control, you light up my life”?

    Yup, sometimes something crosses your inbox where you say, “I believe I will let that one write itself.” – FC

  32. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.11.2013 | 11:05 pm

    Wife#1 says I have to watch the video before i comment, but I think I already have the gist of it. Probably the funniest group of comments in a long time. And I, like others are looking forward to meeting Leroy’s dog.

    Word of warning: I would be concerned they sought you out when they found your name was Fatty. Someone above asked about food…. it will probably be soup…and you’ll be a part of it….for the masses.

    Now the video.

  33. Comment by Steve Dung il | 02.12.2013 | 6:27 am

    “C-N-C, blah-blah-blah-blah-blahblahblah! C-N-C, blah-blah-blah-blah-blahblahblah…” I’ve got the guitar chords down pat! Now I can play this at the next party I am invited to (which might be my last as well).

    The most amazing thing, and one that most of my fellow Fatty Fans missed completely, is how lucky you are to be on such an esteemed spa… er, email distribution list.

    Fatty, I have always admired you and been happy for you, being a celebrity bicyclist, award-winning blogger, and just all-around good guy. But I have to say, now I am just plain jealous. I can’t stand it any longer. You are privileged beyond compare, and frankly it’s not fair. Why don’t the rest of us get these special tour invitations? IT”S JUST NOT FAIR!

    “C-N-C, blah-blah-blah-blah-blahblahblah. C-N-C, blah-blah-blah-blah-blahblahblah…”

  34. Comment by Marty | 02.12.2013 | 7:45 am

    I don’t know why a song called CNC is so unusual. I like an old song called TNT by a band called (would you believe it) AC/DC!

  35. Comment by owen | 02.12.2013 | 8:43 am

    Rovaniemi, Finland? – ha that is great. I was over there at a Porsche winter driving school for a week. Were you visiting Santa?

    Dude, I WAS Santa. – FC

  36. Comment by Wet Blanket | 02.12.2013 | 10:57 am

    I see the North Korea propagandists need to come to the U.S. to learn how to do it right. I bet they haven’t even heard of Edward Bernays! Amateurs!

  37. Comment by GregC | 02.12.2013 | 11:12 am

    Interesting article on exchanging guns for bicycles in Uruguay. Maybe Fatty could lead a mission to exchange nuclear weapons for bikes during the North Korean bike tour? Maybe throw in a dozen doughnuts as an added incentive?

  38. Comment by SteveB | 02.12.2013 | 11:14 am

    I just dare someone to actually do this (and live to tell us about it)… Maybe this could be the next great fundraiser grand prize?

  39. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.12.2013 | 1:02 pm

    Hey Honey…I’ll be back in a couple of hours…going to go do intervals in the DMZ….

  40. Comment by Bicycle Bill | 02.12.2013 | 1:23 pm

    Believe it or not, “Bicycling” magazine this month has an article about a couple of people who cycled the northern part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through (what was then) North VietNam and Laos, and I know a friend of mine who took a two-week trip through some of the same areas he served in whilst taking part in the Southeast Asian War Games back in the late 1960s.  So a cycling trip of N. Korea maybe isn’t all that far-fetched after all.


  41. Comment by DC commuter | 02.12.2013 | 2:04 pm

    No more blogging about North Korea allowed. Triggering nuclear testing is not cool.

  42. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.12.2013 | 2:19 pm

    I’m pretty sure by now this site has triggered all the key words to perk NSA’s interest. Our files have been noted.

    MarsupialMatt:“…going to do intervals in the DMZ.” Really? Why don’t you just shout SPY! SPY! SPY! at work and get it over with. Check your key card hourly.

  43. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.12.2013 | 2:38 pm

    Oh! and Fatty. Before you run off to that quaint northern hamlet, you should fulfill that other “bucket list adventure you’ve been waiting to do. This video will show a little single wheeled Valentine’s present for The Hammer, and you can do it together….maybe in that hamlet.


  44. Comment by Wife#1 | 02.12.2013 | 2:51 pm

    Current News Headline hot off the presses for real!

    This is clearly Fatty’s fault!


  45. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.12.2013 | 4:40 pm

    davidh…the intervals are enhanced as you dodge gunfire…you really want to make your time in the saddle mean something, have people SHOOT at you!

    I guarantee that you’ll be able to hit your MAX heartrate for each 30 second interval. And when they stop to reload, and that’s when you ease back and rest. Repeat until death or escape.

    And then, for the final sprint at the end (to avoid capture)…well, you’ll just never find a more effective workout! I guarantee you can hold your sprint longer than you think you can.

  46. Comment by Marsupial Matt (formerly known as MattC) | 02.12.2013 | 4:50 pm

    And davidh, EVERYBODY KNOWS that Fatty can’t ride a Unicycle! (that would be OH-so much more satisfying to say if I COULD. Or even wheelie for that matter).

    Thanks for the link though…those people are INSANE! that was some seriously difficult terrain for ANY type of wheeled contraption!

  47. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 02.12.2013 | 6:05 pm

    So much fun with this post and the comments!

    I’m ashamed to admit a strange fascination with this tour. LOVE the idea of someone (perhaps other than myself) winning a North Korean “bicycling” vacation from a FC fund-raiser and then writing it up.

    Dreaming, I know.

    Now I’ve got to go find what Leroy’s dog has been saying….

  48. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.12.2013 | 6:16 pm

    @Nancy_in_Mn Does Leroy’s dog have his own blog site? That would be so awesome.

  49. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 02.12.2013 | 6:59 pm

    @davidh-marin,ca Leroy’s dog appears to be all over BSNYC and I’m sad that I’ve failed to properly follow the comments there.

    Leroy’s dog might need a more accessible venue for his (her?) voice. It’s the quietest voice that speaks the greatest truths. Like that? I just made it up.

  50. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.12.2013 | 8:04 pm

    I believe Leroy’s dog is neutered

  51. Comment by Thad | 02.13.2013 | 12:50 am

    Nope, “gherkin” was has already been taken by Hurricane’s neighbor La Verkin. Some rhyme involving jerking said item in La Verkin. I am not sure if they are involved in the succession from the U.N., might just be a matter of time.

  52. Comment by Angela | 02.13.2013 | 9:28 pm

    WOW I got so excited reading about this ride that I burned a batch of cookies. Thanks for sharing Fatty, I’m going to put that on my list of rides this year ;-)

  53. Comment by Koryo Tours | 02.26.2013 | 9:38 pm

    Hi! We just came across your blog – thanks for the extensive plug! As we state in the tour description, Cycling in the DPRK is definitely not for hardcore cyclists, we’re very limited in where we can take people – but if you’re interested in seeing one of the least understood countries in the world on a bike this is, for now, the only way. Let us know if you do run a competition to join us ;)

    Vicky, Koryo Tours

  54. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Susan’s Book Is Almost Finished…And Now I Need Your Help | 02.28.2013 | 10:35 am

    [...] line The Forgotten Gift so I can prioritize reading it over the exciting offers I get to go on cycling tours in North Korea (the touring company has left a comment to that post, by the [...]


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